HMRI Searcher Newsletter Summer 2012-13


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Quarterly donor newsletter for the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), featuring our new Researcher of the Year Professor John Attia, MS research, prostate cancer, endometriosis and HMRI events.

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HMRI Searcher Newsletter Summer 2012-13

  1. 1. summer 2012searcherSolving theMS mysteriesTrawlers, tugs, ships, silos –everything has something to “say”,declares Glenda Arnall as she drinksin the eye-watering view from herNewcastle Harbour penthouse. Having lived in the stunninghome for four years – and lived withMultiple Sclerosis (MS) for 40-plusyears – Glenda takes every day as ablessing. She zips around the balcony, and MS patient Glenda Arnall has lived with the disease for more than 40 years.the Honeysuckle precinct for that BELOW: Researchers Rodney Scott and Jeannette Lechner-Scott.matter, on an electric buggy as shefiercely maintains her independence. clinical coalface. Her husband The pair are intrigued by “I’ve been in a buggy for five Professor Rodney Scott, meanwhile, the complexity of a diseaseyears because it’s easier. I can walk works at the cutting edge of genetics that combines neurology andwith the aid of two sticks but I’m as co-leader of HMRI’s Information immunology.impatient,” Glenda says. Based Medicine Program. “Studies have now identified 123 The penthouse suits her lifestyle genes predisposing to MS – Nowperfectly, and also inspired Glenda we need to find out how we canto hold a fundraising evening called influence them,” Jeannette says.“View for a Cause” in late November. Rodney adds: “All of us have a “I have five granddaughters and risk but some cross a threshold andI want them to visit all the time,” develop the disease.”Glenda says. “The girls are also The HMRI team is nowone of the incentives for doing the participating in a world-first clinicalfundraiser – the money might be the trial, known as PrevANZ, which willcatalyst for finding a cure. determine if Vitamin D supplements “They’re all perfectly healthy and Their research paths merge can prevent or delay the earlybeautiful but you just don’t know. I because genetic and molecular onset of MS. Jeannette says it’swas 22 when I was first diagnosed profiling is vital to unravelling the an important step to proving that aback in the late 1960s.” mysteries surrounding MS. As a major risk factor can be modified. Since 2007, Glenda has been married couple, it consumes their “Although a cure might not yeta patient and trial participant for thoughts long after office hours. be in our grasp, we can now defineAssociate Professor Jeannette “When you’re as involved in your so many treatment pathways andLechner-Scott, Senior Staff work as Rodney and I am, you don’t interventions that my aim is to seeSpecialist in Neurology at John leave anything behind,” Jeannette MS patients going about their dailyHunter Hospital. says. “You think about it when you life without the disease being a major Jeannette is tackling MS at the walk the dog or go for a bike ride.” burden on them,” she said. Follow HMRI on Facebook and Twitter
  2. 2. communityRADAR on target A w H ds ar M N R ig I h t Top honour for ‘all-rounder’A Hunter prostate cancer trial using hormonetherapy to reduce testosterone levels – inconjunction with radiotherapy – has yielded The Hunter Region’s most ABOVE: Richard Anicich frompromising clinical results, according to chief Sparke Helmore, John Attia, prestigious medical researchinvestigator Professor Jim Denham. and NBN’s Deborah Wright. award has been won by a The initial findings of the RADAR multidisciplinary epidemiologist duties and a contribution rate of(Randomised Androgen Deprivation and working in fields as diverse as almost one medical publicationRadiotherapy) Trial were published recently asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart per week; five of his mostin The Lancet Oncology. disease, mental health, public recent papers appeared in the Quality-of-life effects were studied in health and stroke. respected international journala cohort of 1000 men across 23 cancer Professor John Attia accepted Nature Genetics.centres in Australia and New Zealand. the coveted Sparke Helmore/ He currently serves as Chief “We’re aiming to see whether 18 months of NBN Television Triathlon Award Investigator for the Hunterhormone therapy is superior to the standard for Research Excellence in a Community Study, a cohort ofsix months of treatment,” Jim said. ceremony at the HMRI Building 3,000 men and women aged “The study is also testing whether use of in late November. 55-85 years that has ongoingthe drug Zometa can prevent losses in bone As a member of HMRI’s research value in the areas ofmineral density and also prevent the spread Information Based Medicine genetics and ageing.of secondary cancers into the skeleton. and Public Health Programs, In addition to his research, “We obviously want better treatment John’s expertise in research John runs an advanced trainingoutcomes but not at the price of severe methodology, analysis and program in General Medicine atside effects. I am highly encouraged by the molecular genetics is widely John Hunter Hospital.quality-of-life findings.” sought by researchers around “John is a thoroughly deserving Cancer-related outcomes of the RADAR Australia and the world. winner and joins a verytrial won’t be known until 2014, however “Studies must be designed impressive HMRI honour boardJim said that androgen deprivation had in such a way that they get that dates back to 1999,” HMRIpreviously been shown to destroy millions of accurate results,” John said. Director Michael Nilsson said.cancer cells which otherwise would thrive on “To give a classic example, “His work has direct benefit totestosterone. there was a study looking at public health outcomes across The downside was that men experienced the link between smoking and our communities, and buildingtemporary symptoms similar to menopause. Alzheimers Disease, which capacity in our health services.” “In around one quarter of men, side effects initially found that smoking was HMRI Chairman Bob Kennedyfrom androgen deprivation can be quite protective. praised the variety and qualitysevere, with hot sweats, swelling of breasts, “What the study didn’t factor in, of work being undertaken bya reduction in libido and erectile dysfunction,” though, was that many smokers researchers.he said. “But we found that the additional had died earlier, before they had “In addition to the major12 months of hormone therapy had little a chance to develop Alzheimers. awards, we were able to presentlong-term impact compared to the standard When the epidemiology was a further ten travel prizes fundedtreatment. The majority of men returned to done correctly, the finding was by HMRI, PULSE and the Hunternormal once the therapy ceased.” actually reversed.” Children’s Research Foundation RADAR was kick-started by a donation John juggles an extraordinary to help our younger researchersfrom HMRI supporters, the Gusse family. work load with teaching advance their careers,” he said.
  3. 3. news in brief Four new gene regions linked to endometriosis have been discovered in an international study involving HMRI researchers. The study of 5648 Australian, Japanese and European women with endometriosis gives a clearer picture of the causes of this gynaecological condition, which affects up to Luke Wolfenden, left, Rebecca 10 per cent of Australian women and causes Wilson from PULSE, and travel about half of all female infertility. award winner Morgan James. The condition can also induce pelvic pain, menstrual disturbance, and tissue damage. Newcastle researchers Professor RodneyGood for life ... fruit and vegetable consumption among children. Scott, Dr Elizabeth Holliday, Professor John Attia and Dr Mark McEvoy assisted thegood for Luke Another current trial aims to encourage greater physical Queensland Institute of Medical Research. “This is a major genetic discovery for activity among children in such a complex disease, which will help inAlso at the HMRI Awards Night, childcare. building risk profiles,” Rodney Scott said.Public Health research fellow Dr A computer-based smoking intervention continues to operate A drug widely used toLuke Wolfenden was named the at John Hunter Hospital five treat pain and epilepsyPULSE Early Career Researcher years after his research ended. can substantially reduceof the Year. the severity of long- Luke, 32, works with Hunter Another first was the trial of term chronic coughing,New England Population Health a sporting club intervention according to a newat the Wallsend campus and is to reduce at-risk alcohol study conducted by Dra conjoint senior lecturer at the consumption. Through the Nicole Ryan.University of Newcastle. Australian Drug Foundation it has Her findings are His far-reaching research reached 5000 clubs nationwide. the first to show that the drug Gabapentinhas significant public health “Receiving the award has been suppresses a nerve-related triggerrelevance as it delves into humbling,” Luke said. “It has responsible for stimulating persistentsmoking cessation, alchohol brought a sense of achievement coughing. “The results are very promising and renewed determination to and raise hope for many people withabuse and obesity prevention. refractory chronic cough,” Nicole said. He successfully managed conduct innovative research to “The condition can be bothAustralia’s largest child obesity improve community health.” psychologically and physically disabling,prevention program, “Good For PULSE also presented travel and there have been no effective drugsKids, Good For Life”, and also awards to Morgan James and available. Sufferers now have a potentialconducted the first trial of a Kirsty Pringle, allowing them to new treatment option.”telephone program to promote attend overseas conferences. Dr Kenneth Moss State awards for scientists AM, a foundation board member of the Hunter Two past HMRI Award for Research Excellence winners have Medical Research been acknowledged in the 2012 NSW Science and Engineering Institute from 1998 to awards announced in Sydney. 2002, passed away Laureate Professor John Aitken was named NSW Scientist of suddenly in October, the Year for his world-leading work in reproductive biology. just months after being “Each year the reproductive needs of some 120 million couples appointed the University worldwide go unmet. Finding more effective ways to control of Newcastle’s 6th Chancellor. fertility is a critical global issue while, at an individual level, we Dr Moss headed a Capital Campaign should never forget the large number of couples seeking safe, that yielded significant funding for the HMRI effective solutions to their infertility,” Professor Aitken said. Building. He was deeply committed to the Fellow University of Newcastle researcher Laureate Professor University, having graduated with a Bachelor Paul Foster won the Excellence in Biological Sciences (Human of Engineering degree (Hons) in 1968 and a and Animal Health) award for his work in respiratory disease. PhD in mechanical engineering in 1974.
  4. 4. events U t C et P I n R in M MH rdOExtra-Ord-inary finish to raceEight yachts crewed byHMRI supporters enjoyed a Fensom’s Long Time Dead, while third across the line was Dungog bike ridemagnificent day’s sailing on Wizzard owned by Mic Hinchey. Member for Newcastle, Tim Owen AM MP,Newcastle Harbour, contesting “The HMRI Cup is a great way went along for the ride when the third annualthe Ord Minnett HMRI Cup. for NCYC to partner with Hunter Newcastle to Dungog Charity Bike Ride With sponsor Ord Minnett’s Medical Research Institute and began on October 27.crew aboard, the 43-footer help raise funds for the great After flagging away the lead ridersAnger Management came from work they do across a variety from Nobbys Beach at 6.30am, the Statelast place in a handicap start to of research fields,” NCYC parliamentarian hopped on a borrowedclinch victory by a nose. Chief Executive Officer Richard bicycle and rode the first section of the It was the closest finish in Howard said. picturesque 90km course.the club’s history, according to “This year the weather gods “It has been quite a few years since I lastwinning skipper Phil Arnall, the were kind, allowing for some hopped on a pushbike but I enjoyed takingClub Commodore. great racing and a fabulous after part,” Mr Owen said. Second place went to Matt party back at NCYC.” “I like the idea of a healthy activity like cycling helping to fund medical research through HMRI, so I take my hat off to all the riders who competed.” The event raised around $15,000 as some 220 riders – ranging from elite racers through to the so-called “charleys” – formed an impressive peloton. The route takes in four local government areas – Newcastle, Port Stephens, Great Lakes and Dungog – as it wends its way to the foothills of Barrington. “It’s a unique event in the Hunter, being slightly longer than the Loop The Lake and following a course through beautiful countryside that riders don’t often see,” event spokesman Ian Bourne said. Rotary members served as marshals and also greeted the riders upon crossing the Coming in 2013! finish line at Dungog’s Jubilee Park. See for more details. Dec-Jan 20 Maitland Regional Art Gallery is hosting the HMRI artist in residence Judith White. Jan 26 PULSE Australia Day party Lot 1, Kookaburra Cct New Lambton Feb 22 HMRI Golf Day Newcastle Golf Course Locked Bag 1000 New Lambton Mar 17 20th Sparke Helmore/NBN Television triathlon NSW 2305 incorporating the Greater Foreshore 5 (Mar 15) T 02 4042 0000 and Tri-junior triathlon (Mar 16) F 02 4042 0001 E SEE OUR WEBSITE FOR FULL DETAILS ABN 27 081 436 919
  5. 5. Your support helpsfund life-changing research!You can make a real differenceHaving spent his working life dispensing goodmedicine and good advice, pharmacist Vic Carrollhad a healthy respect for his own wellbeing whenhe reached retirement. Just as well …His regular PSA checks began showing a steadyincrease and when the reading reached 6.6, Vic’sGP referred him to a urologist. A biopsy confirmedthat further treatment was warranted.“The ‘ray’ treatment went for seven weeks, fivedays a week, but I’d drive to Waratah, have mytreatment and be home in an hour,” the Merewetherresident said.In addition to radiotherapyVic received an androgendeprivation (AD) drug in theRADAR trial (see page 2).Now aged 74, Vic hasannual appointments withProfessor Jim Denham andjust received his five-yearall-clear.“In the Hunter we foundthat testing rates hadsoared after the ‘Little Prick’ campaignand, as a result, our detection rate became thehighest in the State according to the NSW Cancerregistry,” Jim Denham said, before adding that earlydiagnosis by itself won’t save lives.Close to 3,300 Australian men succumb to prostatecancer each year but through research they have afighting chance. Jim Denham reported that the useof six months of AD had reduced prostate cancerdeath rates 10 years after treatment from 22% to11.4% in the trial’s predecessor (TROG 96.01).As part of the RADAR trial, Vic also took the drugZometa but he stopped the medication after it flaredup his gout. Today, he plays tennis three times aweek, walks and gardens.“Thanks to more effective treatments, that havebeen ‘road tested’ in our trials program, we hopeto see the Hunter’s mortality rate, which has beenthe highest in NSW for many years, dropping in thenext three or four years,” Jim said.You can help make life better for cancerpatients like Vic. Please donate today bycompleting the form overleaf, or online.
  6. 6. Yes! I would like to make a donation in support of life changing research!Please accept my donation of: $30 $50 $100My choice: $ DM - SEARCHER-1213Q2 D&SPayment options: Please find enclosed a cheque or money order (made payable to HMRI), or Please find my credit card details below. You can also make a donation online at or by calling our office between 8:30am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, on (02) 4042 1000. Gifts of $2 or more are tax deductible.Please debit my card: VISA MastercardCredit Card number:__ __ __ __ / __ __ __ __ / __ __ __ __ / __ __ __ __Expiry: __ __ / __ __ Security Number: __ __ __ (last three digits on the back of your card)Name on card:Signature:Name:Address:Phone: Mobile:Email:We will use your email address to keep you up to date withour latest campaign and project information.Date of birth:We are privacy compliant and will only disclose information toyou in future once personal details, such as date of birth, havebeen verified.To remove your name from our mailing list, please call our officeon (02) 4042 1000. Please post this form (no stamp required) to: Hunter Medical Research Institute Reply Paid 86352 New Lambton NSW 2305